We’re now inside a month away from the Ottawa Senators’ first pre-season game. As you let the bliss of that news wash over you, it’s time to get busy with another Faces Friday Sens Panel. We’ve assembled an excellent group of local Sens experts, chiming in from both traditional and new media with answers to three questions about the Ottawa Senators. The scouting report on this week’s team is high compete level, good in the room, not afraid to drop the gloves.
Let’s introduce the stalwarts of our roundtable, with their twitter links:
Steve Lloyd – TSN 1200 Host
AJ Jakubec – TSN 1200 Play by Play Announcer
Liam Maguire – Broadcaster and Hockey Historian
“Russell” – Former Host at Sens Underground
“Frank Senators” – Self-proclaimed Sens Insider and Genius
Special thanks to Liam for the tray of cold Molson Exports for everyone, with an invitation just now to, “Have at ‘er boys!”
Question number one: Who will be the Ottawa Senators MVP this season?
Steve Lloyd: Tim Stutzle. Entering his third NHL season, Stutzle is still only 20 years old. His move to centre opened up offensive last season, as he finished with 35 points in his last 35 games, even as he nursed a leg injury towards end. What will his numbers look like with DeBrincat and Giroux on his wings?
Liam Maguire: I’ll take the easy way out and go with Brady Tkachuk. For one, he’s my favourite player on the Senators. Secondly, he’s the straw that stirs the drink. On nights where they have nothing going after 40 minutes, and they pull out the victory, it’s largely going to come because of him, not because of Josh Norris on a one-timer on the power play or Stutzle taking it coast to coast. I’m picking Brady all day.
AJ Jakubec: Tim Stützle. He has the highest upside of Ottawa’s forwards and is poised for a breakout season. No one will benefit more from the Sens offseason upgrade up front than Stützle.
Sens Underground: I’ll go with Thomas Chabot. The Sens are now so loaded up front that it’s hard to say who will lead that pack. However, Chabot is still going to be the man on the back end and will still log huge minutes.
Frank Senators: DJ Prosper. The Sens are going to have a renaissance season and these home games will be packed. It’s up to DJ to mobilize a new generation of Sens fans, and if he does it he’ll become a local legend.
As AJ arrives with a hot plate of philly cheese steak perogies for us, here’s question number two: If the Sens had to give up a top current prospect to acquire a top four defenceman, which one would you choose to give up?
Liam Maguire: The only expectations on Ottawa next year, in my opinion, is to get in the conversation for a playoff spot. That’s a win. I don’t think they need another top 4 defenceman to achieve that right now. There’s no way I’m giving up Ridly Greig. There’s no way. Guys like that win championships. If the Sens don’t get killed with injuries or COVID, they will be the most improved team in the NHL. They can do that right now with Jake Sanderson in the lineup and a healthy Shane Pinto and everybody else a year older. So I would not be giving up a prospect right now to acquire a right shot defence.
AJ Jakubec: Lassi Thomson. Don’t love giving him up. But Ridly Greig is a non starter for me. Made big strides in his 2nd AHL season. He’ll play in the NHL. Just don’t know what he’ll be.
Sens Underground: I would not want to see either Greig or Pinto moved. There’s too much upside with both. If either Lassi Thomson or Jacob Bernard-Docker can be considered top prospects, I can see them bundled up and UPS’ed to Arizona (or other).
Steve Lloyd: Sanderson is a non starter, and with all due respect to Thomson and JBD, I think what this question is asking is, “if you had to, would you trade Pinto or Greig.” Tough call, but I’m keeping Pinto. A bigger body, and right shot centre that projects as a top face off man. Norris and Stutzle both shoot left. So does Greig. That helped me make this tough call.
Frank Senators: I would simply tell each prospect we’re going to trade them and read their facial expressions. The prospect who seems happiest to leave Ottawa would be the one I trade.
Question number three: What’s your opinion of coach D.J. Smith’s performance over the past three years?
AJ Jakubec: I think he’s been a really good coach for this phase of the rebuild. Now we’ll see if he’s the man to take Ottawa to the next level. He does a lot of things well. The players seem to love playing for him. But there needs to be progress in the standings. At minimum, meaningful games in March.
Steve Lloyd: The best thing you can say about DJ Smith’s tenure so far is that the young players this organization needed to develop and get better have, and, he’s done a nice job of keeping things as positive as possible through some very tough seasons. But the pressure is on now. There are expectations on this team. Time to deliver a competitive season.
Liam Maguire: I would give him a satisfactory B minus. Last year, once again, Ottawa gets the short end of the stick. They had to play through COVID, when a month later, any other NHL team that was missing 5 or 6 players with COVID gets games postponed. Ottawa had to play through it. How is that Smith’s fault? What’s he supposed to do with that injured lineup last year with all the bodies going in and out? Let alone a season or two before where you see Eugene Melnyk’s fingerprints still all over this.
Sens Underground: Not great, but in fairness he hasn’t had a ton to work with so far, and he was learning on the job. That all changes this season and his leash should be very short. Its time to win, and this group cannot be held back by a coach who can’t keep up. I hope he can do it.
Frank Senators: DJ Smith has taken the players he was given and turned the Sens from a free bingo space on the calendar to a game that opponents wake up dreading. The next step is to generate more offense. I bet if players spoke about him in an Uber they’d be a bit more charitable than past occasions toward previous staff.
By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine